One reason modern weapons are so expensive is because so many
countries require that large bribes be paid before they are purchased. This is,
of course, illegal, and few government officials will speak of it openly. Until
rather recently, many European countries did not believe, in a legal sense,
that such bribes were even illegal. Just a cost of doing business.
one of the reasons the West is so wealthy is because they have discovered that
economies function so much more efficiently when you eliminate the corruption.
In the last few decades, this has led most Western nations to outlaw the
payment of these bribes. This has been a big boost to Russia, which is content
to play by whatever local rules that apply. France is also known to say one
thing, and pay the bribe anyway.
otherwise upright players will just admit that they are paying the bribes for
the good of the country. Britain has had two incidents of this recently. In one
case, police were investigating allegations that over $100 million in bribes
had been paid to Saudi officials to facilitate a $40 billion warplane contract.
The British government finally called off the investigation, because the Saudis
were threatening to cancel the contract otherwise. Apparently, well connected
members of Saudis society had received the bribes, and were about to be
indicted for it. The second case, for a contract worth less than a billion
dollars, is, in some ways, more embarrassing. A contract to sell jet trainers
to South Africa apparently had bribes attached. The South African government is
trying to get British investigators to go away, but the British government is
not taking the hint. The South Africans see this as discrimination, while the
British see it as another effort to clean up the massive corruption that
cripples African economies.
media in Western nations is always on the lookout for a juicy scandal. Bribes
are a favorite, especially if they are connected to arms sales. In both the
South African and Saudi case, the company involved was BAE, the largest company
in the United Kingdom. It was the need to keep those aircraft workers employed
that caused the British government to call off the investigators. But BAE is
still under suspicion in several other bribery cases.
changing attitudes in the West have driven the bribery underground, but have
not driven it away.